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Common Cause/Georgia v. Billups

Case challenging the constitutionality of a Georgia law requiring voters to present photo ID as a condition of voting.

Published: June 5, 2008

In September 2005, Common Cause/Georgia and others filed a lawsuit against various Georgia county Board of Elections and then-Secretary of State Cathy Cox challenging the constitutionality of a Georgia law requiring all citizens to present photo ID as a condition of voting. On October 18, 2005, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia blocked enforcement of the Georgia photo ID law, finding it likely that the law constituted an unconstitutional poll tax and an undue burden on the right to vote. The case was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

In its amicus brief on appeal, the Brennan Center argued that impersonation fraud is an extremely unlikely and unsubstantiated occurrence that can be prevented without requiring a photo ID to vote. The Center's brief marshalled the best evidence on individual voter fraud and catalogued the practices in other states for preventing voter fraud without resorting to photo ID. Because of an intervening change in the law, in early February 2006, the Eleventh Circuit remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

On April 26, 2006, Plaintiffs in the case filed a second amended complaint to reflect the 2006 changes to Georgia's photo ID law. The District Court enjoined enforcement of the amended law on July 14, 2006, but only with respect to the state's July 2006 primary elections and associated run-offs, ruling that that the law posed an undue burden on certain voters in those elections. The Court enjoined enforcement of the amended law again on September 15, 2006, in advance of the state's September special elections. The case was stayed in the District Court pending resolution of a challenge to the photo ID law in state court. The case resumed in July 2007. On September 6, 2007, the District Court upheld Georgia's photo ID law.

The case was appealed to the Eleventh Circuit again, and stayed pending the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court case Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, a case challenging the constitutionality of Indiana's photo ID law. The Brennan Center filed another amicus brief on June 5, 2008, urging the court to reverse the judgment for Appellants, or to remand to the District Court with directions to properly conduct the balancing test mandated by Crawford, including a careful review of the evidence of in-person impersonation fraud and the weight to be assigned to Georgia's interest in requiring a photo ID to prevent it.

Selected documents can be found below. All legal documents related to the case may be found here.